Meet Your Volunteer Firefighter

Posted September 20, 2016 at 5:49 am by

Gilbert Venegas, FF/WF2 - Sheila Harley photo

Gilbert Vene­gas, FF/WF2 — Sheila Harley photo

Gilbert Vene­gas is one of the newest mem­bers of San Juan Island Fire & Res­cue, but not real­ly. He orig­i­nal­ly joined San Juan Island Fire & Res­cue in 2010; moved off-island for a few years and as of Feb­ru­ary 2016, he is back to the depart­ment for good.

This is Gilbert’s sto­ry in a nutshell:
After grad­u­at­ing high school in north coun­ty San Diego, Gilbert decid­ed to ded­i­cate his edu­ca­tion to becom­ing a career fire fighter.
He attend­ed Palo­mar Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege major­ing in Fire Sci­ence & EMT pro­grams. He moved to San Juan Island and joined SJIF&R to gain some on-the-job expe­ri­ence. Gilbert was able to hone his skills by tak­ing the wild­lands and struc­tur­al fire fight­ing class­es here. He did go back to San Diego every cou­ple of months to see fam­i­ly and friends.

It was on one such vis­it, New Year’s Eve 2011, when he met his wife to be, Kelsey. He decid­ed to stay in San Diego and put him­self through EMT school. They moved to Las Vegas in late 2012 to focus on Kelsey’s job and took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to save up mon­ey for their wed­ding at Roche Harbor.

After their wed­ding, they moved back to San Diego where Gilbert was hired by a local ambu­lance com­pa­ny. After a year, he was accept­ed into San Pasqual Reser­va­tion Fire Acad­e­my where he attend­ed class­es for twelve hours a day, six days a week, last­ing four months. Upon grad­u­at­ing from SPRFA he received 32 indi­vid­ual fire cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, some being inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized. Gilbert was also hon­ored as a squad leader.

In Feb­ru­ary of this year, he and Kelsey came back to the Island to attend Chief Steve Mar­ler’s memo­r­i­al ser­vice and after falling in love with San Juan Island all over again, made the deci­sion to move here permanently .

“When you find some­thing that you love to do, it is not work”, Gilbert says. He is assigned to Sta­tion 31 and absolute­ly loves Mon­day night drill and com­mu­ni­ty out­reach events. “It’s great teach­ing the ele­men­tary school chil­dren how to Stop, Drop & Smoth­er — so much fun.” He espe­cial­ly likes rope res­cue and vehi­cle extri­ca­tion. Wild­land fires are hard work but he loves it so does­n’t feel like its hard work!

He spent sev­er­al years get­ting back here to the Island but Gilbert, Kelsey and their dogs Chew­bac­ca and Kai are so glad they made it.

San Juan Island Fire & Res­cue wel­comes all inter­est­ed men and women ages 16 years and above to drop by the Mullis Street Sta­tion and make an appoint­ment to see what we are all about. Look on line at for lots of good infor­ma­tion. Or, you could view our Face­book page: San­Juan Island Fire & Res­cue. Our phone # is (360) 378‑5334. We would be pleased to talk with you.

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